The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript - Nzemi folk tales collected by Ursula Graham Bower, 1940-1944

caption: 'Asa' - myth
medium: notes
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1940-1944
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
refnum: box II file 2
text: Another day he went to a different village where lived an old man and woman and their daughter, a young girl. Namutan stayed in their house and ran away with the girl, whom he sold to somebody else. Then he went off in search of something more to sell at a profit. He came to some fields where a buffalo was tied up and one of the villagers was working.
text: "Be careful of that buffalo of yours," Namutan said. "There are some giant flies coming,and if they sting your buffalo it will die."
text: "What can I do?" cried the man.
text: "Oh, coat it all over with mud," said Namutan, "and then they won't be able to bite it."
text: "Very well, then, you help me," said the man, and together they plastered it all over with mud, so that it was quite grey.
text: "There", said the man. "Now do you go up to the village and ask my mother to give you some zu."
text: Off went Namutan, and asked the villagers where the man's house was. They pointed it out, and he found the man's mother sitting outside drying paddy.
text: "Your son told me to tell you to give me some zu to drink," said Namutan. The old woman gave him some zu, and he saw a necklace in the house.
text: "Your son told me to take that necklace too," he said.
text: "Why?" she asked.
text: "Oh, he has bought my elephant, and that's part of the price," said Namutan. "Look, you can see the elephant down in his field." And he pointed out the mud-caked buffalo in the field below. "And he said I was to have connection with you as well - that's part of the price too."
text: The woman looked and saw the buffalo and believed him, and so gave him the necklace and allowed him to have connection with her, and off he went.
text: When the man came home in the evening his mother said: "A man came here and told me you had bought his elephant, and that I was to give him some zu and a necklace and allow him to have connection with me, and so I did."
text: Then the man was furious and beat her and told her to run after Namutan and get the necklace back. Namutan had gone on to another village, and the old woman hurried after him. Namutan had made magic and caused it to rain, but the old woman reached the village where he was and asked everyone: "Where is Namutan?" They told her which house he was in, and she went there.
text: Namutan said to the villagers: "Take this old woman and keep her as a slave. She belongs to me but I don't want her, and she's always following me about. You catch her and keep her."
text: So the villagers caught the old woman and kept her as a slave, and Namutan sold the necklace to them and went away, intending to marry his father's sister's daughter. Now the girl had already said to her parents that she would only marry Namutan, and had asked her father to go and search for him, and the two met.
text: The father said: "My daughter says she will marry no one but you, so I came to look for you."
text: "Oh," said Namutan. "I have already arranged to marry a girl I am very fond of, but as your daughter wants to marry me I will go along with you."
text: The road was very steep, and Namutan said: "Apao, do you carry me, and I will carry you."
text: "What!" said the man. "How can we carry each other in a steep place like this?"
text: They went along a little further and came to a stream and a ford.
text: "Send your slave in front to pick out the best way," said Namutan, and his father-in-law said: "What, are you mad? We have no slave!"
text: Namutan said no more, and they went on. Presently Namutan said: "Apao, which is heavier, a load of iron or a load of faeces?"
text: "What!" said his father-in-law. "You must be mad! A load of iron is much heavier."
text: They went on, and then the father-in-law said: "Wait a minute, I must ease myself."
text: "No, no, come on a little further," said Namutan, and a little further they went.
text: "Now wait," said the father-in-law.
text: "Oh, just a little further," said Namutan. They went on a little way, and they his father-in-law exclaimed: "I can't wait another second!" and plunged into the forest to ease himself.
text: "There now", said Namutan. "A load of iron you could have carried for hours if you went slowly, but faeces you say you can't carry another second, so that must be the heavier load."
text: Next they came to a village where there was a very large and fine house which was partly ruined.
text: "Apao," said Namutan, pointing to it. "Are the teeth broken, or the wing?"
text: The old man did not understand him, and said: "What are you saying about wings and teeth?"
text: At last they reached the old man's house and the girl and Namutan sat down to eat their supper out of one dish, but Namutan ate and drank very little.
text: The old man said to his daughter: "What sort of man is your husband? As we were coming along a steep path he said: "You carry me, and I'll carry you." How could we carry each other on a steep path like that?"
text: "Oh!" said the girl. "He meant that you should talk and laugh and tell old tales, and so the road would not seem steep at all".
text: "Ah!" said her father. "I never thought of that! You two will make a fine pair! Now when we came to a deep ford, he told me to send my slave in front to find the way, and we had no slave."
text: "Well, you are stupid!" said his daughter. "He meant that you should feel the way in front with your stick."
text: "You'll be a good match", said her father. "I can't understand that sort of talk. Now we saw a big house which was partly ruined, and he asked me: 'Are the teeth broken, or the wing?' What did he mean by that?"
text: "Why," said the girl. "He was asking you whether the house- builder had made a great feast and built the house, or whether it was made by a young man out of vanity."
text: "Well, well, and I never understood that!" said her father. "You two will get on splendidly."
text: So the two were married, but Namutan said: "I won't sleep with my wife, I will sleep with her mother, and if she moves in the night I won't take the daughter after all. If the bole of the tree shakes the branches will shake still more."
text: Namutan slept with his wife's mother, but fleas bit her and she moved about and in the morning Namutan said: "No, no, I won't take the girl after all. If the mother is restless like that the girl will be a dozen times worse. It is not right to put a gold walking stick into cow-dung."
text: Then off he went, but the girl had heard what he said and she ran ahead by a short cut and dropped her ring in some cattle dung in the pathway, and then ran back home. Namutan came along the path and saw it, and picked it up and went back to his wife.
text: "Very well, we'll sleep together," he said. "But do you look in your clothes for fleas today, for if you move tonight I shan't marry you at all."
text: Namutan caught a flea and put it by stealth in his wife's clothes, but she found it, and that night she slept soundly and never moved.
text: "That's good," said Namutan. "Your mother moved about, but you did not, so I shall marry you after all."